Disclaimer: Come, now, you should certainly know that I of all people didn't write the Pellinor Books??? (In other words, nothing belongs to me...okay, some of it does...ugghhh, you know what I mean...)

The Next Step

Chapter 1: Wise Words

Maerad's hands trembled in the folds of her dress. She was so nervous. Tonight, she would be wed to Cadvan at last, and although she loved him, she didn't feel she could bring herself to do it; it was just such a big step in life. She glanced in her dressing room mirror and started at her reflection. She was as pale as the silver dress she was wearing, and her eyes were large and fear shone in them like a beacon. Maerad turned away; looking at herself all dressed up made her feel worse. Suddenly, she ran down the hall and was sick in the bathroom. On her way out, she met Silvia, feeling utterly miserable. Silvia stopped at her expression and took her hands in hers.

"Oh, Maerad," she sighed, cupping her chin in her palm and forcing her to look her in the eye, "It's really not all that bad. Why, I remember when I was your age and I married Malgorn, I wasn't nearly as sick, and, come to think of it, Malgorn looked worse than me. This is a happy day, Maerad! Don't look so glum."

Maerad tried to smile, but it was wobbly indeed. "I know, Silvia, but…." She crumpled down and sank to the floor, covering her eyes with her hands. "Silvia, I can't do this! Go; tell Cadvan I can't marry him. Tell him I'm sorry for being so weak and cowardly."

"Nonsense!" cried Silvia, picking her up and setting her straight. "Where is the brave Maerad I know? Come, you've faced worse than this."

"I'm not so sure," replied Maerad wearily.

Silvia sighed, exasperated. "Maerad, look at me." Maerad unwillingly lifted her eyes to meet hers. "You know Cadvan, you love Cadvan, and you will marry Cadvan, because both of you love each other. You've known each other for years, so nothing will change in the way you act around each other because you know each other. Marriage is just taking your relationship one step further. Don't let your fear get in the way of your life!" Maerad nodded, although her hands still shook behind her back. She could do this. If Silvia thought she could, then she knew she could do anything. Silvia, beckoning, led her back to the dressing room, where she sat her down in front of the mirror and did her hair. When she finished, Maerad could hardly recognize the face in the mirror as hers. She seemed a woman of unnatural beauty, her hair piled on her head like a queens, the silver dress defining her shape and hanging limply on her body.

"What you need is a necklace," said Silvia, examining her dispassionately. She started to walk out of the room but stopped when Malgorn knocked and hurriedly ran in, stopping when he saw Maerad.

"Maerad," he said, sounding surprised, then continued. "You look wonderful. Cadvan will be pleased." She blushed at the unexpected compliment.

"That is not the real reason I came here, though. I have a gift for you, actually two, one from Cadvan and one from me." He stopped and drew from a pocket in his shirt jacket a sparkling pearl necklace, exquisitely shaped so each one was like a radiant little star. "This is from Cadvan," he said. "He wanted you to know that he loves you and wanted to tell you that you will do fine. And just so you know, he can hardly sit still from nerves. He won't do half as well as you," he said, smiling kindly. She and Silvia laughed, and then Malgorn pulled from the same pocket a brooch, just like the one she had once given to Nim, long ago in the North. She still hadn't gotten one remade. "This is for you," he said, "I had one fashioned just before the wedding; you can't go to long without your Pellinor brooch; it is too important."

She smiled happily and took it from him, pinning it on her breast. "Thank you, Malgorn. I love it. It is a beautiful wedding present."

He smiled again, tears shining in his eyes. "You remind me so much of Clavila. I know you will do well. May the Light shine on your path, Maerad."

"And on yours," she replied, as was custom. He smiled, bowing, and then left. Silvia also had tears in her eyes, and she helped Maerad put the necklace on to cover them up, but Maerad noticed. "What's wrong, Silvia?" she inquired gently, her smile fading.

Silvia embraced her hard. "Love, those are tears of joy. I am so happy for you. You have done me proud, and Malgorn is right: You are so much the daughter I never had, or, the daughter I had for so short a time, and yet you are so different, and it makes me love you more."

Maerad felt all warm inside at these words. "Thank you, Silvia," she said, her voice choked with emotion. "Thank you for everything. You were so much the mother I never had, except for when I had Milana. I love you."

Silvia kissed her forehead, and then, letting Maerad have one last glance in the mirror, they walked swiftly down the hall.

End chapter one. Soooo...how was it? Please review!!!! Chapter 2 coming soon.